So perhaps you don’t want to deal with the huge business plan in my last post. This can serve as an outline for your development plan section of your business plan or are the steps to start up your business right now. I strongly recommend creating a business plan first to improve your success but, either way, here are the “nuts and bolts” of starting up your business in the United States:
1. Set Up a Business Address and Phone
Do not use your home address or personal cell phone number. Instead use your physical office address or, if you are working out of your home, a post office box. Make sure to get your address entered on at least Google to start so it pops up when people search in your local area.
You’ll be spending a lot of time talking on the phone to your clients so you may want to get a separate business cell phone or set up a free Google Voice number that goes to your cell and you always use to call out with, but that’s a bit of a pain. I’m sure that soon some technology will make it easy to have two phone lines run on one cell phone but, until then, you’ll be joining a mass of small business owners who pack around two cell phones. Also, if you have staff, you may want to set up a Google Voice number that rings multiple people. You’ll need to gauge this.
2. Get an EIN from the IRS
Apply online at www.irs.gov for your Employer Identification Number. You will need this for just about everything from government correspondence and taxes to setting up your bank accounts, filling out an I-9 to work for other companies, etc.
3. Make it Legal
Every state (and country!) is different so do your research to take the appropriate legal steps to make your business legitimate. Usual steps in the U.S. are registering your business entity with the state, registering your business name, and acquiring any local licenses you need in your city or county. You’ll need an operating agreement if you want to be any form of corporation or limited liability company (please seek legal advice, but limiting your liability in this industry is a good thing!). Find a good accountant and lawyer to help you with these items and get any more information you need from the Small Business Administration. Even if you do most of the work yourself to minimize costs, this is a crucial time for a professional to catch anything that might lose you money or more down the road.
I’m not saying you should do this as you need to figure out what is best for you, but my business is an LLC and I cobbled my operating agreement together from a few I found online and then ran it by a lawyer friend who I thanked with bottles of wine. Cheap and professionally reviewed!
4. Open a Checking Account in the Business Name
The obvious things to keep in mind are the minimum balance (often different for commercial accounts than personal accounts), any fees, and location of ATMs. I’d also think about how good their online system is as it will help you a great deal if you can download transactions for accounting, easily transfer funds to your own accounts, and possibly even pay your employees electronically with minimal costs.
5. Get a Business Credit Card
I recommend getting one with a good rewards program as, if you run your business like I ran mine, I made a lot of rewards points by buying items for my clients (from groceries to computers and furniture) and having them reimburse me (I never up-charged) at the end of the month by check. Whether or not you pay for client purchases for it, use your card for everything related to your business and nothing personal. It will help you build a credit history for your company so stay ahead of the payments. It also will help you greatly in managing your bookkeeping.
6. Figure Out Your Methods of Payment and Set It Up
Most of my clients liked paying me by check and I preferred it as I didn’t lose any money in fees to the credit card companies. However, you may find that you need or want to provide the option of paying by credit card. Consider your options: you could just have them pay you via PayPal or you could set up a merchant account. If you use Intuit Quickbooks Online, I believe Quickbooks will manage credit card transactions and manage all the dealings of payroll (sweet!). I personally used Freshbooks to invoice my more tech savvy clients and set up the PayPal credit card option through it.
7. Get Insured
Getting insurance for a personal concierge company can take a while as insurance providers have no idea how to insure you. This is where your service list may be tested as certain things like, for example, transporting $50,000 paintings (I had to do that) in your car might drastically alter how much you have to pay. Get a good insurance agent who can quote you insurance options from multiple carriers. Insurance agents of integrity are fantastic because they are totally free to you (they make their money on the backend) and are going to do what they can to find the right coverage and price for your business. This can save or cost you a lot of money so put some time into it.
And voila! You are official. Time for fun stuff such as creating marketing materials and a website, networking, and working for clients. Best of luck!